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That weird, “in-between” stage

Think about the church you’re in right now. The church you’re committed to. The church you give to. The church where you serve. Now, think back to before you ever set foot in its doors.

At one stage, you were a visitor. A newbie. A stranger. A newcomer. An outsider. Whatever word you want to use, there was a stage when you weren’t, and now you are.

But there was also a stage when you were newish. What do we call that in-between stage? That part in your journey where you weren’t new anymore, but you weren’t yet all in? You probably know the basics like what time the service starts and where they meet, you might even know the names of some of the pastors. You know the church’s denomination, and you’ve probably visited once or twice. But you’re not yet sold. You’re still exploring, still getting to know, still dating the church.

There’s this weird in-between stage, when a person isn’t exactly new, fresh off the street, but they’re not yet ready to identify themselves as belonging to a church.

When we talk about church websites, we often think in terms of “outsiders” and “insiders”. Certain parts of your website are designed for newcomers who are not yet acquainted with your church — think “New Here”, “I’m New”, “Plan a Visit”, “Get to Know Us”, etc. Then there are parts of your website that are designed for the committed church member in mind. Giving, sermons, blog, rosters, events, sign-ups, etc.

We propose a third “audience” for your church’s website. Those “in-betweeners”. Those who have visited once or twice, and are no longer new, but they’re interested to learn more. They’re keen to explore.

The person who has never even set foot in your church building probably isn’t interested in your mid-week kids’ club just yet. The person who has been attending for 5 years already knows about your Friday morning Seniors’ Group. It’s these in-between people, those who have had a taste of your church and are keen to hear more. They are the people who need to hear about your Youth Group, your New Mums Ministry, your Church Camp and your Monthly Lunches.

So, as you plan out your church’s website, keep these three groups of people in mind. There will always be “audience-overlap” when it comes to website content, but as a very generalised structure, here’s an example of how you can break down your online information and match it to its most engaged audience:

Brand new, never set foot in the building before, total newcomer:
– Service times and location
– Sunday morning facilities (Sunday School, creche, parking, etc)
– Beliefs/Associations/Statement of Faith
Frequently Asked Questions
Staff

In-between, newish, visited before but still figuring things out:
– Growth Groups/Mid-week study groups
– Youth Group
– Kids’ Clubs
– Seniors/Mothers/Mens/Womens Groups
– Classes
– Courses

Committed, regular attendee, adopted the church as their own:
Giving
Blog
– Sermons
– One-off events
– Current series
– Social feeds/integration
– Rosters
– Forms/sign ups

How you go about actually configuring or organising this information in your website is up to you. Perhaps you can differentiate these three groups in your menu. Perhaps each group of people is directed to a different section of your website. Our New Life WordPress theme is super flexible and allows you to build your church’s website in any configuration or structure you like! Think about your own church and what you have to offer, and structure your website accordingly. But no matter the size, age or demographic of your church, you will always be presented with those three groups of people: the very new, the newish, and those who are all-in. So keep that in mind as you build your church’s website.

Laura Hurley

Laura's favourite way to spend her time is to hang out with her husband and crazy-cute son Ethan at hipster cafes, but also finds time to work in a communications, design and events role at her local church where her husband is a pastor. She works for Gospel Powered as a Blogger, Equip Writer and Social Media Manager. She also dabbles in photography, baking and binge-watching crime drama TV shows.
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